Next Wednesday (14/11/12) sees Vicky Ellis perform her first full length storytelling piece, Unconventional Attitudes, as part of Blackpool’s Wordpool Festival 2012. Unconventional Attitudes is series of five imagined snapshots based on the historical accounts of the life of Emma Hamilton and has received high praise including winning the Buxton Fringe Festival 2012’s award for the spoken word. We caught up with Vicky Ellis, writer and performer to find out more…
Duncan: How did you first get involved in stories and storytelling?
Vicky: I was fortunate to see some of the UK’s best storytellers in action at The Storey Institute in Lancaster in 2011. Big names (in the storytelling world) like Sally Pomme-Clayton, Nick Hennessey, Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden were on Dominic Kelly’s line-up as well as newer performers such as Jo Blake Cave and Tim Ralphs. The first show I saw was Ovid’s Metamorphoses by Lupton and Morden and after that I was hooked. The merging of poetic language with mythology and charismatic performance was totally spell-binding. I remember that as I left the theatre that evening I knew it was something I had to do.
Duncan: Can you tell me a bit more about the Unconventional Attitudes story?
Vicky: Unconventional attitudes is a series of imaginary snapshots from the life of Emma Hamilton. I have used historical records, predominantly letter between Emma and Lord Nelson, to determine where she was at certain points in her remarkable life. The story marks out 5 of what I consider to be pivotal moments in her journey.
These historical scenes sit alongside tales from Greek Mythology. Emma Hamilton was famous in Europe for her ‘Attitudes’ which were a type of mime. She would portray the mythological figures, using shawls and different poses, and her guests had to guess who she was playing. There are quite remarkable parallels between the lives of the Godesses she portrayed and her own incredible experiences. By sitting the historical alongside the mythological Emma’s spirit is brought to life in a way which is difficult to achieve by historical record alone.
Duncan: What inspired you to write about Emma Hamilton and her life?
Vicky: My father has always been interested in the life of Admiral Nelson. Every year he marks out the anniversary of his birthday and Trafalgar. He knows the names of all the ships that were present at Trafalgar, the battles he won, the ships he sailed in etc. I was faintly aware of Emma’s presence in the background of this great figure. I bought an historical fiction novel about her life, Too Great a Lady by Amanda Elyot. The book left me astounded at the life of a poor girl from Flintshire who travelled to London at the age of 12 to seek her fortune and found herself in Naples 10 years later and good friends with the queen!
After reading that book I began reading Emma’s letters which revealed a melodramatic and charming character. I could immediately see how she had wound Nelson round her little finger. She was painted by the most famous artists of the age, most notably George Romney, and was asked to sing with the Royal Opera in Madrid (she turned them down). Emma’s clothing was emulated by the rich and famous across Europe and her persuasive powers helped determine the outcome of Britain’s naval battles during the Napoleonic Wars.
I suppose I was charmed by Emma myself. I found her story irresistible. I still do.
Duncan: What format will the Unconventional Attitudes evening take?
Vicky: The performance is approximately 1 hour long. The imaginary snapshots and mythological stories are interspersed with excerpts of letters, my own poetry and even traditional song.
Duncan: Where can people read more of your work?
Vicky: You can visit my website which includes links to most of my work, I also blog every Thursday for the Blackpool Dead Good Poets and of course, I have been known to feature on the wonderful altblackpool!
Unconventional Attitudes will be performed at Blackpool Central Library on Wednesday 14th November 2012 from 5.45pm to 7pm. For more information visit the Unconventional Attitudes Facebook Event.
Show Comments (1)